My third trip to New Orleans began with the free, homey French Quarter Festival and ended with a marathon walk through Bywater, ending fortuitously at Bacchanal, a bottle shop/beer garden/music venue/restaurant tucked into an unlikely corner of the Mississippi River and Industrial Canal, just across from the Lower Ninth Ward.
I never saw New Orleans before Hurricane Katrina. I've never been there for Mardi Gras. I've spent very little time on Bourbon Street. The city is so encrusted with history and culture that a stranger can wander anywhere and find himself lost in a labyrinth of music, food and sunbaked buildings.